Commission discusses legislative goals for year

Jan. 19, 2013 @ 06:30 AM

In the midst of discussing their own local goals, Rutherford County Commissioners passed along some statewide legislative goals for the 2013 General Assembly session.

Commissioners met with state Rep. Mike Hager, R-Rutherfordton and state Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Spruce Pine, during a special meeting Friday morning.

While much of the discussion centered around local priorities, commissioners also passed along goals ranked by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC).

The top priority was keeping transportation responsibilities on the state and not shifting that to the counties.

"Doing that here means we would have to raise property taxes," Rutherford County Manager Carl Classen said.

Classen said there has been discussion to make the switch from state-operated transportation upkeep to county control.

However, Hager and Hise said that it was unlikely that kind of switch would be made.

"I think you are hearing it coming from a lot of metro areas that want to use it to raise funds for other projects that might not get done otherwise," Hise said. "I really don't see anything that will happen with this."

Another statewide priority is reinstating more lottery funds for school construction.

Currently, the state has capped the amount of lottery money used for construction at $100 million.

"We've gone a long time in failing to maintain buildings," Hise said. "The economy is growing but very slow but, I think you may see more of these funds available."

He added that some schools are asking for more flexibility in the spending of those state funds that are derived from the sale of lottery tickets.

Hager said that the state is trying to keep its spending more in line.

"We've tried to hold the line and give what we have been giving," Hager said.

Hager and Hise also discussed other priorities that will be outlined by the NCACC such as opposition to unfunded mandates and shifts of state responsibilities to counties, preserving the existing local revenue base and, ensuring adequate mental health funding.

In addition to those priorities, commissioners also talked about its local priorities such as the installation of a new VIPER emergency communications tower at Chimney Rock State Park.

The priority was set because of a recent move by the federal government to make emergency entities use the 800 MHz frequency for communications. Currently, more rural areas are using 100-200 MHz. Adding a new tower will help with that as well as increasing the communication coverage in Rutherford County.

Hise said that the state is maintaining its funding for statewide VIPER tower implementation but, there is no guarantee as to funding for the new fiscal year.

"We know that funding will be there until July 1," Hise said. "Until we know what the fiscal environment will be for the next year, we don't know what will be available for next year."

Classen said that the county will also expedite the decision on the location for a VIPER tower on the eastern side of the county. Currently, there is one VIPER tower, located in Spindale.